Monday, 01 June 2020 06:10


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“To be able to effectively handle the COVID- 19 and its effects, we should look at it holistically, and that means take into consideration all the sectors including the gender function which is equally adversely affected’’, said one of the County directors as he gave his remarks during the County Directors of gender meeting. The meeting was held to deliberate on GBV initiatives during COVID-19. “We have a tendency to take other areas seriously and forget the social bit. Gender is equally important and should be taken seriously,’’ he continued.
The gender sector has not been left behind in as far as the Covid- 19 pandemic has ravaged. Currently, there is increased domestic violence cases throughout the counties sprouting from the fact that families have to stay indoors together for as long as the curfews, the cessation of movement and the work from home directive will last. Defilement cases are also on the rise during this period which has also seen an escalation in teenage pregnancies.
Government’s dusk to dawn curfew has had a negative effect on infant and maternal mortality rate. Expectant mothers are facing many challenges when they need medical services past curfew hours. This has brought adverse challenges. The County Director of Gender for Nakuru noted with utmost concern the effects of all these on expectant mothers while highlighting the plight of a street girl who delivered on the streets during curfew hours. The homeless and the street families pose a great challenge to the authorities since they have nowhere to go in this very critical time when they should be indoors in obedience to the curfew directive. They are also at high risk of infecting each other since they are mostly in groups and don’t have proper information on how to act around this pandemic.
In light of this, various Counties have come up with various interventions that can help salvage these gender-based issues. During an interview with the Council of Governors knowledge management Unit – the Maarifa Centre, on the 27th of May, 2020, Mombasa County Gender Director, Esther Ingolo, shared their interventions during this period including the launching of a toll-free number where victims can call in to be helped at any time owing to the fact that Mombasa has been hit by many issues of GBV in the past.
During this pandemic, however, the Gender team at the County noted that the GBV cases were low. Digging further, it was discovered that people would rather call gender-based individual organizations rather than go to the GBV rescue centre at the County which is situated at Coast General Hospital for fear of Contacting Covid- 19. People wouldn’t go to the police either because of the social distancing directive that would limit them especially past the curfew hours.
It was for this reason that the County was prompted to launch a toll-free number with the help of partners in their gender technical working groups which has since been publicized through local radio stations and roadshows. A situation room that’s fully dedicated to handling GBV cases was set up, where the calls are received with a dedicated workforce of about 10 people. The toll free number is linked to several extensions so that at no given time should a call be missed. The situation has since changed as more victims now call in and they are helped. They also come to the situation room where they hold private talks with officers and are helped accordingly.
Other measures put in place by the County Government of Mombasa include the establishment of a strong and active multi-sectoral technical working groups, the establishment of GBV- rescue centres and safe houses, use of community health workers to offer guided counselling services in households among others.
While all of these are working for the good of the people of Mombasa, Mrs. Esther stated that the journey has not been devoid of challenges including lack of enough funding from the County at this time since there’s more focus with in the fight against the Corona Virus, non- reporting especially by male victims, overcrowding of rescue centres such that some of the survivors may not be taken in, unwillingness of the victims to stay in the safe places among others.
The recommendations according to their journey therefore that can be replicated by the rest of the counties including need to have psycho- social assistants for the victims, ensuring there is full stakeholder participation with representations from many sectors, GBV hotspot areas in counties should be mapped out so that when resources are being consolidated, high priority is given to them, when counties develop hotline numbers, they should tell citizens that its only for gender issues since citizens have a tendency of calling to ask for other things, counties need to collaborate to ensure they are on the same level in fighting GBV cases, as well as publicize the toll free number well.
Wash your hands. Stay home. Observe social distancing. We shall overcome.

Read 1186 times Last modified on Monday, 01 June 2020 07:03